Music Monday: “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz

A mellow Monday morning in May and I am thinking of Stan Getz. This video of Getz, Astrud Gilberto and “The Girl from Ipanema” is just the thing for a beautiful Spring day.

Coltrane and Getz remain my favorite Jazz instrumentalists. Their sounds are quite different, different enough that you can like them both.

My mother had this album when I was young. My wife received it as a Christmas gift from my friend Keith a couple of years ago.

It has aged well indeed.


Keeping Score

baseball-scorecard-300x214There are two kinds of people in this world: those who keep score at baseball games and those who don’t.

I still have a scorecard from the very first major league game I ever saw in person. It was a game in 1981 at Wrigley Field between the Phillies and the Cubs. I was almost 21 and the pitching match-up was: Steve Carlton against Fergie Jenkins. Pretty damn good for your first game in person.

It is a scorecard from my first game BUT it is not myscorecard. Somehow during that day I ended up switching cards with someone in the large group I was with. So my souvenir is someone else’s scorecard of my first game.

For a number of years I had a notebook that had games I went to at Wrigley,  Comiskey, the Astrodome and Tiger Stadium. Dozens and dozens of games… if not hundreds. Somewhere in one of a many, many moves over the years, I lost that notebook. But for some reason I still have someone else’s scorecard from my first “in person” major league game.

The need to obsessively document every game I go to has lessened over time. This year so far I have gome to one game at Miller Park in Milwaukee and two at Target Field. The game at Miller I scored as well as my first at Target Field. At my second game though at Target Field with my good friend Keith I did not even try to keep score. With time I have learned that the game is enjoyable both ways.


Music Monday: “Blues Man” by George Jones and Dolly Parton

“Blues Man” is a Hank Williams Jr. song. It contains the autobiographical elements that are in most of Hank Jr.s best songs.

This video features a version of the song by George Jones and Dolly Parton that is great. George Jones is probably my favorite country voice. His duets with fellow country legends are always great. Dolly Parton is under appreciated as a singer and, sadly it seems now these days, even as a songwriter.

On a Monday morning, how can you go wrong with two country legends singing a Hank Jr. song.


Music Monday: “Not Dark Yet But It’s Getting There” by Bob Dylan

It is Monday and morning and this week I turn 50. What better song than “Not Dark Yet But Its Getting There.”

Dylan’s first self-titled album came out in 1962. I was two years old. 48 years later he is still original, cutting edge, and relevant. How may of us could say that?

When my father-in-law found out that we had named our eldest daughter Dylan, he asked “after the drunk poet or the drugged-out rock star?” I answered both.

Dylan and a Monday morning seem like a natural fit.

Music Monday: “Hurt” by Johnny Cash

The very first album I ever owned was Live at Folsom Prison, a gift from my cousins. Johnny Cash was as big at the end of his life as he was at any time in his long and storied career. He influenced bands as diverse as Flogging Molly and U2 and today’s country singers. He was admired by every one.

In this video, he covers the song “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.  The original Nails song is pretty good… Cash’s cover is great.

Monday morning and Johnny Cash… ain’t it great to be an American!

Music Monday: “Straight to Hell” by The Clash

It would be hard to single out just one favorite song by the Clash, but “Straight to Hell” is certainly near the top of the list.

“The only band that matters” remains one of the most influential and interesting bands of all time. They are not, however, at their best live,… at least in the recordings I own or have heard.

I came across this live version of “Straight to Hell.” I cannot think of a better way to start the work week than with Joe and the boys.


Music Monday: “People Are Crazy”

“People are Crazy,” by Billy Currington. The bones of Christian theology are contained in this song.

I have little time for most “sacred music” and absolutely no time whatsoever for that particularly awful stuff marketed as “Christian Music.” I do however enjoy the fusion of the sacred and secular that is at the heart of true country music – Willie Nelson following up “Whiskey River” and “Bloody Mary Morning” with “Uncloudy Day,” or Hank Sr. singing “I Saw the Light.” Here faith and life are real, not syrupy and trite. It is music with an authentic edge and voice.

I do not know much about Billy Currington,  but I do know I love this song. You could write a three volume systematic theology based on this song .

Volume one: “God is great”
Volume two: “Beer is good”
Volume three: “People are crazy”

Book Review: Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

boysofsummerThe best baseball books are autobiographical. This is because baseball is the most measurable of games. We can look at a player’s statistics and the box scores of games and know the bones of the sport. The flesh of the sport is in autobiography.

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn is two books. The first part is a memoir about growing up in Brooklyn, what the Dodgers meant to the writer and his father, and about what it was like to cover the Dodgers as a young reporter. The second part consists of chapters devoted to different players. Kahn, like Ritter in The Glory of Their Times, tracked down players to find our what their lives were like after the Brooklyn Dodgers. In Ritter’s case, he was meeting men he had only read and heard about. Kahn was reacquainting himself with men he already knew, or thought he knew. The two parts combine to create the most critically acclaimed baseball book ever written.

Kahn covered the Brooklyn Dodges for the New York Herald Tribune for two seasons, 1952-1953, as the beat writer. This was the Brooklyn Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, and Gil Hodges. This is the Dodger team that lost two World Series in the row to the Yankees. These are the Dodgers of baseball legend, when New York was the capital of baseball.

Kahn is a remarkable writer whether he is exploring his relationship with his father and their shared love of the Dodgers or is chronicling the after-baseball life of Dodger great Carl Furillo. He tells his stories with love and compassion. The result is literature that even a non-baseball fan could love. For a baseball fan, this is one of the top two or three books ever written about the game.

Of Movies and Imagination

I have always thought of movies as the laziest of arts. I do not mean their creation. I have seen movie sets. I know how many people it takes to create only a minute or two of film. There is nothing of laziness in that.

I am thinking of those of us who watch them. Where reading a book requires you to be actively engaged in the creation process, movies are handed to you in their finished form. The imagination part has been done for you. All you need to do is sit back and take it in.

When I pick up a novel and begin to read, I am really picking up a blueprint of sorts. The writer might describe a character but his or her final form is left up to my imagination. The Sherlock Holmes of my imagination never looks wholly like the Sherlock Holmes of yours. This is even more so when the writer is someone like Hemingway who often provides no description of the character at all. We create out of our imaginations everything that we see in our mind’s eye.

In a movie, the director takes care of such things for us. When Ethan Edwards comes out of the sun-baked desert toward the shaded house in The Searchers, he is John Wayne. John Ford imagined the scene for us one way and it happens just like that– for us and for anyone else who sees the movie. It is perfect, but requires nothing from us and we contribute nothing to it. For this reason, I am an impatient movie watcher, and generally speaking a reluctant one.

If it sounds like I am saying that film is a lesser art form, I do not mean that at all. The written word, ultimately, is limited. It is limited first to those who can read, then those who can read that particular language, and finally to issues of interpretation and meaning. Reading after all is always interpretation.

Film as a visual art can transcend the limitations of language. I could watch an Akira Kurosawa film in Japanese, understanding none of the words spoken, and still be haunted all my life by certain scenes. In this way, film is iconic like painting and universal like music.

Each art form has its limitations and its strengths. When we engage different arts we expand ourselves, open ourselves up unfettered to truth and beauty. Each art uses us in different ways. Poetry and prose primarily use our imagination then our ears. Movies primarily use our eyes and then our ears. When we live a life immersed in all the arts, we are constantly changed and challenged.